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The world as we know it

A venue too big, a venue too small....

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In response to all the fuss being made lately about funding, our local arts community appreciation and the new CASA building, I believe that another related issue is being somewhat overlooked.CASA opens  May 15-17. Photo by Ricahrd Amery
As an avid music lover and regular attendee of concerts big and small, I have no qualms about the new building, its purpose or its name. Yet when it comes to music as an art form, something in this city has been nagging at me for some time now.
This city has some great venues and show promoters, including The Slice Bar & Grill, The Owl Acoustic Lounge, The Geomatic Attic and more. All of these locales bring in quality Canadian acts at least several times a week, entertaining up to 200 people each time. Then we have the Enmax Centre in which acts like Motley Crue or Bob Dylan entertain up to 7,000 attendees.

Herein lies my issue. We have venues for small touring acts and venues for large touring acts - and a very wide gap in between.
Because of this discrepancy, hundreds of touring Canadian acts including the likes of Broken Social Scene, Metric, Propagandhi and Sarah Harmer; will opt to skip over a city like ours on their touring schedules. They will play Saskatoon, Calgary, and Edmonton instead; where they can sell out a 'mid-size' venue, entertaining 2,500 fans in the process.


Political correctness strikes again

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Several months ago I wrote an article regarding political correctness in Canada. That little ramble was linked to some recent controversy generated by the lyrics of an old 1980's Dire Straits song.
Those lyrics were essentially banned from eastern Canadian radio forever for they contained the offensive term 'faggot'. The term, if you read the actual lyrics, is used in a sarcastic way to describe a rock star playing guitar on the MTV, as seen from the perspective of the lyrical character: a blue collar, low-income delivery man.
The essence of that article was that censorship is a very slippery slope, one that seems to be changed or altered every several years as our cultural values change and our political 'sensitivity' becomes ever more acute.
The reason I'm revisiting censorship and political correctness one more time, is because to a certain extent the issue has arisen again in Lethbridge last week.
In case you have not heard already, it was announced this month that from this point forward, all elected members of the Lethbridge City Council will be hereby forever known as Councillors, with their former name, Aldermen - being dropped for a more gender-neutral term.

See link:
Now before I continue, I think I understand the issue here. Alderman has the -man suffix, much like stewardess once had the -ess. We no longer have priestesses and governesses; just priests and governors. Meanwhile all garbagemen are now known as Sanitation Workers. Christmas trees were almost completely known as Holiday Trees on local signage last year.

In our Canadian world, we no longer have crippled people, coloured people, handicapped people or even aboriginals. And I get it, I do. We're all equals on this big blue planet and we deserve to be treated as such. I agree wholeheartedly.

 I'd like you to keep in mind that I'm just your basic, regular, low-income, caucasian Canadian guy; in his early 30's, living in Lethbridge, Alberta. What you are about to read is simply my opinion, and though I certainly don't wish to offend, I certainly wouldn't mind if this little column managed to make a few people think about the strange little ways that our Canadian culture is changing around us. Political correctness is slowly manipulating the nature of words, the historical roots of the words themselves and eventually the ways that we see fit to use them. I realize bullying takes place in society to many different degrees, for many different reasons. So make no mistake, I believe that all races, all creeds, all religions, all genders - ARE and SHOULD be treated equally.

But I wonder what's happening to our somewhat legendary Canadian sense of humour - that humble, self-deprecating ability to make fun of ourselves and shrug off what is essentially an inconsequential item of little import.
I don't wish to seem insensitive and I don't want to start a war of words. Yet when my imagination gets rolling and I attempt to picture a perfectly PC nation;  I'm not sure if it's truly any better, or any worse than what we've been dealing with in our yesterdays, todays, and most likely our tomorrows.
Imagine what our Canadian national anthem would sound like were it to be 100 per cent politically correct? If I'm not mistaken, there could be some issues there.


If silence is golden, I want no part of it

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This week something happened to me that has impacted my life in ways I never imagined. It has changed my perceptions regarding people, habits, justice and driving. This incident occurred on Wednesday, in the wee small hours of the morning.

At some time between midnight and eight a.m., some knucklehead took advantage of my leaving a car door unlocked – opened the door and removed my stereo.   

Now, to a music lover like myself — this was a serious blow.  Opening the door to my car to head off to work on Wednesday, I think I went into shock. Nothing else was missing — spare change was left behind, my registration and insurance was there.

The only thing missing was the faceplate for my stereo. That’s right, get that, they didn’t actually take the whole deck itself, they merely took the faceplate. A faceplate made specifically to fit that one JVC model car stereo. This means that this bloody thief; this scandalous vulture of entertainment; this diabolical mischief maker - has merely managed to piss me off, and has gained nothing. He can’t listen to my stereo, and neither can I.  It’s almost like he or she broke into my house and stole the sofa cushions, leaving the sofa behind.

I’ve contacted the police, and have notified my neighbours that there is trouble afoot. The police recommended that I wait a few days before replacing the sound system, as there’s a chance they may find it and return it to me. In the meantime, driving around has never been so dry. I find myself shaking, going into withdrawals and nibbling on my bottom lip when I’m behind the wheel.


For Whom the Bell tolls — where have all the records stores gone?

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Several years ago, we lost A&B Sound. A few months later, we lost our Music World. During this same period, Calgary's long-time standing A&B sound locations shut their doors. Even the legendary Sam the Record Man on Queen St. in Toronto closed up shop.

This slow, dwindling extinction of options for shopping for CDs was all indicative of a quantum shift into the digital age, and was all about the resulting changes in the way music lovers like me acquire their music. Between iTunes and satellite radio networks, Napsters and Limewires, LastFMs and bittorrent sites, CDs just aren't profitable anymore it would seem.

Now, if you enter the last remaining non-independent 'music' shop in Lethbridge, i.e. HMV, the CD section only takes up one tenth of the store's floor space. The rest is filled with video games, iPods, headsets, cell phone cases, DVDs and box sets of television seasons. Alas, two recent articles I came across would indicate even this last-standing reminder of the ’80s and ’90s listening trend is headed the way of the buffalo as well - i.e. dying.

The first was a short blog posting on the Maclean's magazine website.

The article detailed how it was recently announced the huge, multi-level HMV store on the corner of Robson street in Vancouver will be shutting down this year. The second item I found was a press release released last month by HMV's U.K.-based parent company, the HMV Group, who have announced they are considering selling off all 123 of their Canadian HMV outlets.


Message received loud and clear— head off the internet prices of the future today

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As a music lover, my interest is always piqued when headlines that might affect my CD collection begin to appear.  

One such headline landed in my e-mail box in January, in the form of a petition put out by; a non-partisan, non-profit group whose primary goal is to increase public awareness about proposed changes to our communications policies in Canada. In the early weeks of 2011, OpenMedia began circulating the news that the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) had given the OK for big national Internet providers (such as Bell Canada and Rogers Communications) to begin imposing extra fees on their services.  

I realize this likely sounds complicated and boring to many, but I ask you to bear with me for a moment. This announcement raised a red flag in my mind. It doesn't seem like all that long ago that I was paying $50 for phone, TV and Internet. Well if those were the good old days, well I, for one, am in no hurry to pay the potential prices of the future so I'll put them off as long as I can.

This increase would be trickled down by the big nationals to the smaller, more regionalized internet service providers; of which Shaw or Telus would be two local examples. These smaller companies would thus have to resell the bandwidth to our homes and businesses, for slightly more money, depending on how much bandwidth the region (or even the individual home) is consuming. These extra-usage fees would be applied to those Internet users who use the most bandwidth or download/stream the most online content. It's known as usage based billing, and the CRTC essentially had given the go-ahead for it to be implemented. Were this decision to go ahead unchecked, broadband or high-speed modem internet services would be about to cost much more for Canadians.

It was not long after their first announcement that OpenMedia went into action.
In an OpenMedia press release made public on Jan. 25, 2011,'s national coordinator, Steve Anderson, didn't mince many words.
“The CRTC has once again left the wolves in charge of the henhouse.”

Anderson and OpenMedia rapidly initiated a campaign called Stop The Meter, in which Canadians were asked to sign a petition to prevent this development from going ahead. By the end of the month, nearly 40,000 Canadians like me had signed it, via its circulation over e-mail, Facebook, Twitter and other social media means. The reason we signed the petition was simple. If private telecom companies can begin to regulate their own charging system in such a manner, they can slap extra fees on those of us who download a lot of music, watch a lot of online movies, and play a lot of online games.

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